Oz Working Dogs - Assistance & Working Dog Equipment

For assistance/service dog equipment, as well as guide, therapy, detection, search & rescue, police and dogs in training equipment check out my website http://www.ozworkingdogs.com.au - I make and sell vests, capes, belly bands, harnesses, handles and more... and will post to the world!

Friday, March 18, 2011

My last dog and preventative healthcare for the coming one

So it has been nearly 11 years since my last dog. My previous dog was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which you can see in the photo opposite. His name was Red Eclipse, named after an eclipse of the moon on the day we got him - and his eyebrows which looked like little red half moons (he was a tri-colour Cav as you can see in the puppy photo).

He died, early, from a heart murmur that got progressively worse as he got older. It wasn't bad when he was a puppy - he was obviously examined by a vet before we bought him and we had no idea that a relatively minor heart murmur would kill him well before his days should have been up. It is a common genetic problem for Cavaliers and it is horrible to watch one die from it. He was only just 7 when he died, and small dogs are meant to live the longest. I think they are superb family dogs, so friendly and happy, but I would always always make so sure that every generation of a Cavalier back at least 4 generations didn't die from a heart murmur or mitral valve disease (another common genetic defect). I couldn't see it happen again. From such an active happy dog, who used to go running with my dad and loved to do obedience and jumps in the backyard with me, he virtually became an ancient depressed dog within about 6 months. He was taking so many medications, had his lungs drained several times, and eventually, as a family, we decided to have him put down. He died the next day, before he could have the injections. I still feel guilt that I allowed it to go on too long, that he died himself, that I didn't end it sooner.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Clickers arrived today!

I know it is very much getting ahead of myself, but I had clickers arrive today, purchased from ebay. The fiance and I had some silly fun clicking each other for things, and a tiny bit of serious practicing timing. I will be using the clicker to train my dog, (assuming I am able to get one without too much of a fight) as it really seems the way to go these days for early puppy training right up to the advanced stuff you expect from a highly trained service dog.

I wish clicker training had been more popular when I trained my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (who died, young, in 2000 after a battle with a nasty heart murmur). While the place I did my training then did use positive reinforcement, its techniques were nowhere near as flexible and full of possibilities as clicker training.

The main places I have been getting my information from on clicker training have been the user "supernaturalbc2008" on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/supernaturalbc2008), who posts many videos helping people all over the world train their own service dogs with clicker training. They also have a blog here at http://www.onlineclickertraining.blogspot.com/ with more information, with even sessions for sale over webcam for clicker training all over the world if you need help! The other fantastic place is Karen Pryor's http://www.clickertraining.com/, with videos and articles by many different trainers. Some of the videos are free, some of the you have to pay for. I plan on buying some of the puppy clicker videos when (hopefully not if!) I get my pup. There are a lot of other places with moderate amounts of clicker information, but I have found the supernaturalbc videos best for service training in practice, and the Karen Pryor site by far the best for clicker training theory.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My plans and thoughts

So this is my first post, outlining what my goals are for the next couple of years.

I haven't been well for the last 2.5 years or so, and have no real expectation of improving much more from where I am now, and instead quite possibly could get worse. I have an autoimmune condition, for a while it wasn't absolutely sure of diagnosis but of late it has become a sure diagnosis, with no cure unless there is a lot more gene research done! I used to spend quite a bit of time in hospital but now it is only about 6 weeks per year. On top of this I get nasty migraines, currently about 3-4 per month. So that's just to give a short medical background.

About 18 months ago I started getting interested in the idea of an assistance dog, and did a bit of research, but for various reasons, such as being in a no pet rental house, not being sure where the illness was going, not wanting to take dogs away from those who were full time in wheelchairs etc, I didn't pursue it. It wasn't until the last several months I have got a lot more interested in the idea. Even then, I didn't think it was all that possible because of that first reason - I live in housing that specifies 'no pets'.

Several weeks ago I happened to ring up the local government here for information on assistance dogs in the ACT, who put me onto the Human Rights Commission because I wanted to ask them a couple of questions anyway about my legal rights if the landlords said no when I finally did ask for permission for an assistance dog. I had already checked out our Disability Discrimination Act in reference to assistance dogs, so imagine my surprise when I was told by a lovely woman from the Commission that another section of the Act that dealt with Accommodation basically meant that not allowing me to have a dog would imply they were denying me access to something that would alleviate my disability and would amount to discrimination. As soon as they told me that, I knew I had a case and since then I have been beginning to think and plan for a puppy.

Whilst there are many programs here in Australia which offer assistance dogs, there are several reasons that make me not want to go with them:
  • I am not disabled to the extent of many others, such as in a wheelchair 100% of the time, (although I do have a wheelchair I use occasionally) and I don't want to take a dog off someone who is in a situation like that.
  • I know the waiting periods can be long, especially if you are not a 'priority case'.
  • I have experience in training dogs and would enjoy the process of the advanced training required.
  • If my condition deteriorates I would easily be able to train new tasks without having to ship a dog back to the training program for re-training
  • I want to get the extra close bond you get after going through puppyhood together, as I believe that would help us in a working relationship
I have been doing a lot of reading, have joined a few forums... just getting as much information as possible so I make good decisions from now on.

I have started writing a letter and putting together an information pack for my property manager and landlords, so that they make a reasonable decision about letting me have an assistance dog. I mean really they have to let me, if they don't I can officially complain, which I don't want to have to do, but I would push it a bit if it meant I would get a dog to help me out. I want my life to go back to as normal as possible and I see so much possibility there for a dog to help it go in that direction. Just to get back to work, to get some self esteem back, to know I am a functioning person again!

I am going overseas in a little less than two months to get married to my lovely fiance, but after the wedding, and if I have permission from the property owners, I shall be going full steam ahead, mostly likely with a golden retriever pup.

Wish me luck on this journey, which I shall hopefully journal the ups and downs right here.